The text from our daughter Claire, this week, simply said, “Benign!” followed by “#partytimechumps.” And with that, eight months of cancer concern for our girl ended.
It all started in such a familiar manner: discovery and ultrasound, followed by a second ultrasound two months later.
While she never expressed fear, I know this all weighed heavily on Claire’s mind. We found some notes from a class Claire took. In the midst of the notes, there was some doodling. Do you see the ribbon and BCA?
There was enough concern in the second ultrasound to request authorization for a 3-D mammogram. A few minutes later, the tech informed us everything was fine, and no need to come back until Claire was 40!
Valerie saw the ultrasound results, and there was a jolting flashback to her own ultrasound before her cancer diagnosis. She too was told there was nothing to worry about, and as a result, the cancer wasn’t discovered until it became metastatic and had advanced to Stage 3B.
With Claire, we weren’t going to simply trust a diagnostic method that was anything less than 100% conclusive. This week, after consulting with a surgeon and undergoing a fine needle aspiration, we knew for sure what we already had believed: Claire did not have cancer!
“What we already believed…”
That phrase is not used lightly, for “belief” is different from hope. There is a substance and weightiness to belief that gives foundation to an outcome. When Valerie was diagnosed after finding an enlarged lymph node, we prayed and felt peace in the midst of waiting for biopsy results, but hope for a desired outcome was all we had.
But now I say that we believed Claire was going to be fine. Maybe it’s not too strong to say we “knew.” What I will describe has changed my walk with God to a degree I’m not sure I can fully convey.
In Deuteronomy 4:9 we read, “Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
This drives me! What I (we) saw and experienced during Valerie’s cancer journey impacts us exceedingly! I must not forget! I will not forget. And so we share with our children, and others, the things God revealed to us. And we start with this: knowing God’s will, and living in a place where he can speak to you only comes from relationship; a deep, tight, walk that is nurtured through much time and much communication.
While there are numerous examples of how God spoke to me during Valerie’s treatments, three stand out distinctly. The first was a direct voice, while the other two came from reading scripture. I must add, that even saying God “spoke” causes me to pause. Growing up in the church, there are times I have seen that phrase used in a careless, nonchalant manner. I don’t use that phrase lightly, and it’s only after significant time has passed that I share it now.
About 5 days after Valerie’s diagnosis, a customer asked me how I was. I briefly shared the news and he began to tell me of his wife’s up-and-down journey with cancer. The doctors had surgically removed the cancer, but it had come back. There was surgery after surgery. They were still fighting the cancer several years after it was found. He pointed his finger at me and said, “This is what you have to look forward to.”
I was already dealing with so much fear and anxiety, that as I drove away my heart was crushed. I cried out to God, literally and figuratively, and then I clearly heard a voice say, “THIS IS NOT WHAT I HAVE FOR VALERIE.” And in that moment, I went from complete fear to total peace. So much so that I could not stop weeping in gratitude and thankfulness.
Out of a deep brokenness and a desperation to give all my fear to God, He spoke to me. Indeed, Valerie has not experienced anything like what my friend went through. I never want to forget that! I cannot.
As dramatic as it was to literally hear God speak, I’m almost more excited when He shows me things in the Word. Again, I’m convinced that one cannot hear the whisper of his voice through all the white noise of our busy lives unless we, without remorse, close down the streams of data, news, and entertainment that each fight with each other over our affections.
This kind of relationship is not one to be picked up and put down at our leisure. It is a relentless pursuit with no finish line. And as I have most recently discovered, I really can live without the elective (and enjoyable) distractions that have consumed me.
I feel free to just be. Life simplified is Him glorified. Peace rules when the clamor fades.
The second time God spoke through His Word was startling. It came as our Pastor was preaching from Nahum. While I was listening, I was really broken inside, praying for Valerie as I sat.
I was asking God to kill the cancer, to remove this alien from her body, and to never let it come back. And then, there it was…in the middle of the passage (Nahum 1:9) I heard the words, “This trouble will not come a second time! ” It was as if I’d been hit in the back of my head with a lead pipe.
As our Pastor was speaking from the outside, God was speaking on the inside. I didn’t realize until later that the context of the passage had nothing to do with the context of what I heard.
The passage was describing the ultimate destruction of the city of Nineveh, but what I heard were words of peace and healing. In Hebrews 4:12 we read the word of God is alive and active. Nowhere has that been more true for me than in this moment.
It was such a startling moment, I reached over to Valerie’s bible and wrote the date in the margin.
Perhaps the sweetest moment though, was the next time this happened. Valerie was through with all treatments and surgeries. We had several other very significant moments of God speaking to us (one of which is here).
It was the day of her post-treatment scans (full body CT scan, full body MRI and bone scan) and I was scared. In spite of everything I knew and believed, fear gripped me and I felt panicked.
After a year of treatment, the day we had anticipated for so long was finally here. What would all the treatments and all the surgeries result in? Had any cancer escaped to other parts of the body and grabbed a foothold?
As I pondered it all, I felt a strong presence urging me “get in the Word…get in the Word.” The beauty of it all is that I’m on a regular two year bible reading plan, I don’t choose the passage!
So I opened to the day and read:
“Blessed is everyone who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways! You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be blessed, and it shall be well with you. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord. The Lord bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children’s children! Peace be upon Israel!” Psalms 128:1-6
Your wife shall be a fruitful vine… seeing our children’s children! My heart was again filled with gratitude. I couldn’t have randomly turned to such a passage in 1,000 years!
All these points of connection with God have some commonality. They all come out of a deep brokenness of heart and a desperation to hear from the One who holds our future!
So it was several weeks ago, regarding Claire. She won’t know this story until she reads it, but just before the consult with the surgeon, I again had tremendous anxiety and deep fear. It was a PTSD moment, reliving Valerie’s diagnosis all over again.
I wondered what God what was happening: Why? Why again? Why my little girl?
Again, the response “get in the Word.” And I did. This time it was two chapters from Job where Job was, in essence, asking God, “Where are you? I don’t understand all of this!” And then, the answer in the third chapter from my reading that day. From the book of John, chapter 5, I read the story of Jesus healing a man who had been an invalid for 38 years!
I knew what God was telling me: “I am here. I do hear. I’ve got your girl! I am the Healer even when you don’t see me! Don’t forget, the cancer will not come a second time, remember? Trust me. Claire is fine.”
As I was reading without, He was speaking within. Again. I knew! The white noise was gone. His was the only voice I was attentive to.
Are you desperate to hear His voice? Could too much clanging of life keep you from hearing His whisper? Pursue Him relentlessly! Settle for nothing less. His blessing of His presence will overwhelm you! God may not speak to you the same way He spoke to me. But He does speak, if you have ears to hear!
Two days ago was the three year anniversary of Valerie’s diagnosis. She’s just fine too!
I think Claire is right! It’s party time, chumps!